This month’s prestigious Cannes Film Festival will see the premiere of the latest work by French filmmaker Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire, “Black Flies.” Serving as a senior medical technical advisor on the film, which stars Sean Penn, Mike Tyson, Tye Sheridan, Michael Pitt and Katherine Waterston, was a Bellport native, now living in Long Beach and part-time in South Carolina, and career emergency medical service professional Eric Cardamone. The film, adapted from the Shannon Burke novel of the same name, aims to highlight the trials and tribulations faced each day by first responders through the story of a young, novice New York City paramedic learning the ropes by riding with a weathered industry veteran.
From early discussions to the film’s release, the experience of working on this film took approximately five years for Cardamone, he said, explaining that he was introduced to Sauvaire through a friend and colleague who recommended Cardamone’s expertise. Cardamone spent months taking the cast and crew members on ride-a-longs, sharing insights from his own experiences throughout nearly 25 years of service, training and educating actors to properly use medical equipment, and serving as a consultant on the script and during shooting to help make the action and dialogue as authentic as possible. He even had a brief cameo appearance in the film in a small speaking role.
The underlying message throughout the film, Cardamone said, is about mental health--the physical and mental trauma of dealing with death and dying for all first responders.
Cardamone began as a paramedic at JFK Airport with the Port Authority police before working for multiple hospitals in Brooklyn. From there, he moved to Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, which is where he has worked for nearly 15 years, and as a program director for the past seven. Outside of his administrative duties, Cardamone still works in the field as a paramedic at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn when he is available. While it has been quite some time since Cardamone lived in Bellport, his roots in the area are strong in the town where he was born and raised, where his father worked as a superintendent of the town for decades, and where he still has beloved family and friends, he said.
Working multiple jobs, including production of “Black Flies,” did prove challenging at certain points, Cardamone admitted, calling the hours often “grueling.” He said he was often on set from the early evening until around 4 a.m. the next day, after which he would sleep for a few hours before heading back to work. Still, Cardamone called the experience unforgettable, and his personal equivalent of “hitting the lottery.”
While this was Cardamone’s first time working in the entertainment field in any capacity, it wasn’t his first time imparting his knowledge. He also sits on the advisory board for the paramedic program at Kingsborough Community College. A graduate of Stony Brook University, which he called one of the best programs in the country, Cardamone thinks of mentoring and educating others as a way of paying it forward, he said.
Overall, Cardamone said he came away from this experience with a newfound appreciation and enlightenment in regards to the nuances of filmmaking, especially as he was so often right in the middle of the action, adding that he couldn’t have asked to collaborate with a kinder, more professional cast and crew.